Columbus USPS worker convicted in stolen identity tax refund scheme

WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Columbus returned a guilty verdict against a U.S. postal worker for his role in a stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy.

According to evidence presented at trial 52-year-old Harold Coley worked as a mail carrier for the USPS and his postal route was in Columbus.

A release from the Department of Justice says, in 2012, Coley was recruited by Keshia Lanier to participate in stolen identity tax refund conspiracy. Coley collected addresses on his route, including many that did not exist or related to vacant buildings, and provided them to Lanier and others for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Lanier obtained many of the stolen identities from Tamika Floyd who worked for the Alabama Department of Public Health. The stolen identities primarily belonged to 16 and 17 year-olds.

Lanier and others directed the IRS to mail the tax refund checks to the addresses Coley provided. In exchange for cash, Coley intercepted the fraudulently obtained refund checks and provided them to Lanier and others. In total, Coley’s co-conspirators directed over 1,600 refund checks claiming more than $2.5 million to addresses on his postal route. Lanier and Floyd were previously sentenced to 15 years and more than seven years in prison for their roles in the scheme.

Sentencing is scheduled for December 19. Coley faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud and 5 years in prison for each count of embezzlement of the mail. Coley also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and monetary penalties.

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